How Barcelona is reducing daily car journeys

How Barcelona is reducing daily car journeys

Nick Michell spoke to Mercedes Vidal Lago, Councillor for Mobility in Barcelona, about the city’s plans to reduce car journeys and encourage increased walking and cycling

How much of a problem is air pollution in Barcelona in relation to motorised-vehicles?

“Today Barcelona clearly exceeds the thresholds recommended by the World Health Organisation both for nitrogen dioxide and particles, especially in terms of average levels of these pollutants in the atmosphere. Air pollution not only causes more than 650 premature deaths annually in Barcelona, but also represents the deterioration in the quality of life for many people; an increase in cardio respiratory illnesses, and especially affects the elderly, people with respiratory problems and children may suffer from delayed cognitive development.”

“So fighting pollution is a priority for the Government, and we are willing to take bold steps. In November 2016 we presented the government measure “Program of measures against air pollution”, 58 specific actions to be developed during the period 2016-2020. Many of the measures are linked to our Urban Mobility Plan.”

The Urban Mobility Plan targets a reduction of 21 percent in the number of car journeys made daily. Is the city on track to reach this goal?

“The Urban Mobility Plan (UMP) sets out an ambitious target for changing Barcelona’s modal split towards sustainable mobility. It plans many measures to integrate the use of bicycles, improve surface infrastructure for public transport and most importantly increase tenfold the areas in which pedestrians may have priority. This is our most ambitious goal, the one that should have the highest impact on emissions and car use dependence, and therefore on completing the 21 percent decrease of car and motorbike use. The timescale for this was very short, 2013-2018, taking into account that the UMP was only approved in 2015. We are committed though to making a huge step forward.”

How important is the development of superblocks in encouraging increased walking and creating a more pedestrian friendly urban space?

“Today 20 percent of trips made in Barcelona are in a car or motorbike, whereas 60 percent of its public space is dedicated to carriageways. We must rebalance this in favour of pedestrians, bicycles and public transport, providing more space for sustainable modes. Beyond, we should recover urban space for social activities, such as resting, entertainment, interaction, or street markets, urban spaces where before we had traffic and car parks.”

“In 2016 we started the first pilot superblock of this term, in Poble Nou. We learned a lot from the experience, which allowed us to continue with the implementation of the programme this year. In 2017 we aim to start five new superblocks: Sant Antoni, Horta, Eixample, les Corts, and Gracia.”

The number of bike lane kilometres in Barcelona has increased by 21 percent, from 116 to 141 kilometres. What progress is being made on the aim to increase three-fold the number of bicycle lane kilometres?

“Barcelona has introduced a total of 23 bike lanes from the start of this term, and six more will be added this year. As part of the bike strategy, the city is continuing to expand the network of cycle paths and cyclists, with the aim of having an infrastructure that is safe, understandable, connected and set up to access the whole city by bike.”

“Since the beginning of this term, the number of bike lane kilometres in Barcelona has increased by 21 percent, from 116 to 141 kilometres and the city government continues to work to achieve the goal of 308 kilometres. This summer sees the start of the construction of 62.5 more kilometres.”

Continue reading:

  • Priority for bicycles in Barcelona’s mobility plan.
US House ‘Bipartisan’ Robot Car Bill threatens highway safety, Consumer Watchdog warns

US House ‘Bipartisan’ Robot Car Bill threatens highway safety, Consumer Watchdog warns

A bill covering autonomous vehicles that the House of Representatives rushed to pass today threatens highway safety and leaves a regulatory void rather than enacting necessary protections, Consumer Watchdog warned today.

The bill, passed on a voice vote, under rules to expedite consideration, was being touted in some quarters as an example of new-found Congressional bipartisanship. “Bipartisanship is worthless when it produces a dangerous bill,” said John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project Director.

The autonomous vehicle bill, called the SELF-DRIVE Act, would leave a wild west without adequate safety protections for consumers, Consumer Watchdog said. The bill pre-empts any state safety standards, but there are none at the national level.

“Pre-empting the states’ ability to fill the void left by federal inaction leaves us at the mercy of manufacturers as they use our public highways as their private laboratories however they wish with no safety protections at all,” said Simpson.

“The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration needs do its job and Congress should give the agency the money to do it,” said Simpson. “The sad reality is that President Trump hasn’t even bothered to nominate a NHTSA administrator.”

The Department of Transportation has completely ignored a committee, the Advisory Committee on Automation in Transportation (ACAT) created by the Obama Administration to offer advice on autonomous vehicle policy.  It has not met since Trump took office.

Self-driving car developers claim to worry about a so-called state-by-state patchwork of conflicting safety regulations, that they claim would hamper innovation.

“That’s nonsense.  If NHTSA enacted Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards covering autonomous vehicles they would automatically preempt state safety regulations,” said Simpson.  “The House action was show-boating that actually puts Consumers at risk.”

Consumer Watchdog’s has released an in-depth study, “Self-Driving Vehicles: The Threat to Consumers.”  Read the report here:

• US House ‘Bipartisan’ Robot Car Bill threatens highway safety, Consumer Watchdog warns.

Frost & Sullivan: Waymo is poised to become largest autonomous technology company in the automotive industry by 2030

Frost & Sullivan: Waymo is poised to become largest autonomous technology company in the automotive industry by 2030

Waymo, the autonomous technology company under the Alphabet conglomerate, is at the forefront of developing autonomous driving software for cars. With over 3 million miles of on-road testing of autonomous cars and an industry-first car without a steering wheel or pedals, Waymo could potentially help commercialize its autonomous technology earlier than its competition, disrupt multiple industries ranging from shared mobility to logistics, as well as hold the key to Alphabet’s ecosystem of connected devices, thus enabling the collection of data from vehicles and users to offer customized services.

Frost & Sullivan’s strategic insight, Waymo’s Future Autonomous Disruptive Capabilities for the Automotive Industry, expects a Waymo-powered, Level 5 autonomous vehicle, featuring complete connectivity, to become available to the public by 2025. It would be based on Fiat Chrysler Automobile’s Chrysler Pacifica, which is currently being used as a test mule. The insight discusses the impact of Waymo’s innovations on the global automotive ecosystem with specific attention on the various application areas of Waymo’s autonomous software, including shared mobility, logistics, and retail.

To access more information on this analysis, please visit:

“Waymo’s autonomous technology has vast revenue potential in shared mobility and data-based services, and in various applications such as self-driving trucks, cars, and drones,” states Frost & Sullivan Mobility Research Analyst Ajay Natteri Mangadu. “However, with every major automotive original equipment manufacturer (OEM) working on their own in-house autonomous software, finding the right partner to license Waymo’s technology will be imperative to its success.”

Potential growth opportunities for Waymo include:

  1. Securing partnerships with third-party developers to build applications for vehicles based on vehicular data;
  2. Licensing its autonomous software and tailoring it to logistics, thereby saving fuel and driver charge costs;
  3. Licensing its in-house manufacturing and distribution of light detection and ranging (LIDARs) and sensors for autonomous cars; and
  4. Extending its software to power autonomous buses for public transport.

“A recent partnership with Lyft is a strong indication of Waymo’s interest in entering the shared mobility space,” noted Natteri. “Lyft is expected to manage the fleet of Waymo-powered autonomous vehicles for ride-sharing in select cities, extending its early rider program.”

Regardless of Waymo’s entry, the automotive industry is poised to transform into a highly connected ecosystem. Nevertheless, the entry of Waymo could offer existing ecosystem participants tough competition. Waymo’s Future Autonomous Disruptive Capabilities for the Automotive Industry is part of Frost & Sullivan’s Future of Mobility Growth Partnership Service program.

  • Waymo to become largest automotive company in the autonomous area by 2030.
Metropia launches online carpooling service In Houston to match carless Harvey victims with willing drivers

Metropia launches online carpooling service In Houston to match carless Harvey victims with willing drivers

Metropia Inc., innovators of traffic congestion management platforms, today announced the launch of its online carpool pairing service to provide post-Harvey support to Houstonians who lost their vehicles to floodwaters.

An estimated 500,000 vehicles were destroyed in the flooding brought by Hurricane Harvey. As schools and offices reopen, the countless car-dependent Houstonians left without easy access to transportation will be reliant on the generosity of their fellow citizens for ongoing commutes until such time as insurance claims are completed, local dealerships are able to meet the incredible demand, and public transit is fully up and running to those who have access.

By signing up at, Houstonians in need of a ride and drivers happy to share one can enter their starting location, departure time, and destination into the site, selecting it as a one-way or roundtrip carpool. Behind the scenes, Metropia’s matching algorithms will work to pair nearby drivers and passengers with a common destination and travel time, introducing the two via email for the purposes of forming a carpool.

The pairing process allows potential carpoolers to participate at their own level of comfort with privacy in mind. Once paired with another carpooler, drivers and passengers are given the name and email address provided by their match during signup and invited to reach out to discuss their carpool in greater detail. From that point, participants can share as much or as little personal information as desired. For example, those wishing to speak on the phone can exchange numbers, or those wishing to meet at a neutral pick-up spot can do so without sharing their home address.

“There are many outstanding programs established in the wake of Hurricane Harvey to help Houstonians get back on their feet, but our city’s recovery will still very much rely on the generosity of Houstonians in helping one other,” says Dr. Yi-Chang Chiu, Founder of Metropia, Inc. “This is a unique opportunity for Houstonians to lend a helping hand to their neighbors and show the heart that our great city is known for. If you have an extra seat available in your car, we encourage you to signup at and share a ride with someone in need.”
• Metropia launches online carpooling service In Houston to match carless Harvey victims with willing drivers.

Redesigning Uber for Business

Redesigning Uber for Business

When I joined Uber for Business three years ago, we were a very small and scrappy group with a clear mission: to simplify ground transportation for business travelers. We realized that a lot of people were already using Uber on business trips, and we wanted to develop products and experiences that spoke directly to those users. From my first day, I was impressed with the entire team and our ability to move quickly. It was exhilarating to be surrounded by great people, building something that would provide real value to millions of people — creating a huge impact in a relatively short time.

Three years later, our team has grown to over 100 people, serving 65,000 companies worldwide. But even as we’ve grown, I’ve been struck by how much it still feels like working on a small team: we continue to move quickly, and we are still able to interact with and learn from our users and their concerns. Our launch builds on three important things in particular that we’ve learned along the way:

  1. “Uber for Business” means different things to different companies. Soon after first launching Uber for Business, we saw companies setting up multiple accounts for different groups of people to access different travel programs. For example, a sales team may need rides available in every city, a new office employee might need rides from the train station to the office, and people working late could need rides home.

But the need for multiple accounts complicated things for our users. One car manufacturer we work with set up 35 different accounts for dealerships to book rides for customers within each region. Managers and administrators were having to juggle multiple accounts — exactly the problem we were trying to solve while building Uber for Business in the first place!

Our recent launch has redesigned our whole product so that a single account can set up multiple travel programs, each one with specific settings for different individual and group users. And it’s not just for employees: for example, recruiters can use Uber Central to book rides for job candidates, or to give visiting partners and clients door-to-door service while they are in the city. With this redesign, we’ve eliminated the need to jump between accounts — an administrator can log in to one account and get a bird’s eye view of all Uber usage across their entire organization. We redesigned our dashboard to create a more consistent experience when switching between our different products (Uber for Business, Uber Central)

  1. Our clients want access to services beyond rides.

When most people today think of Uber, they think of pushing a button and getting a ride. However, over the years we’ve seen companies using Uber’s app in many different ways other than getting themselves around town. That has inspired us to create new services to better fit their needs.

Uber Central is a great example of this: it began as a product spun up after we saw how some companies (hotels, for example) were using multiple phones to order rides for clients and patrons. This not only required creating multiple accounts, but also using multiple devices to book rides simultaneously. Uber Central fixes that: it empowers any mobile phone or front desk within an organization to order multiple rides for guests that are paid for by the company.

Our recent changes to Uber for Business make it easy for us to give companies access to new services like Uber Central. Companies can now give specific people, like front desk attendants, office managers, and recruiters access to this new service from Uber.

Continue reading:

• Rebuilding Uber for Business – as described in Medium.

Sharing economy helps consumers bridge The ‘Attainability Gap’

Sharing economy helps consumers bridge The ‘Attainability Gap’

People still dream of owning major assets such as homes and vehicles but the cost of ownership, the need to pay down rising debt and rising interest rates have created an “Attainability Gap,”  according to a new study by car2go.

The survey of 1,800 people in major U.S. and Canadian cities reveals that while 66 percent of consumers hope to purchase a primary home, only 34 percent believe they can achieve their goal in the coming year — revealing an “Attainability Gap” of 32 percent. Similarly, while 55 percent of consumers surveyed are interested in purchasing a car, just 46 percent feel that goal is attainable.

In response to this growing gap between what people want and what they can afford, consumers are increasingly turning to shared services as a smart, convenient way to save for important life purchases and achieve their long term goals.

“We’re seeing this trend reflected in our membership data,” explained Paul DeLong, CEO of car2go North America, the North American arm of the world’s largest, fastest-growing one-way carsharing service. “Millennials are one of the heaviest users of car2go and represent nearly half of our 800,000-plus members here. That same demographic is eagerly saving-up to buy their first home or car. Shared services like car2go help hundreds of thousands of people every day bridge the attainability gap through affordable access to services they need that also help them save for life’s major purchases.”

Savings and investments and ‘home purchase of primary residence’ were the top financial priorities of more than half (52 percent) of survey respondents, while 11 percent said they were still focused on paying off their student loans. Not surprisingly, respondents also viewed ‘affordability’ as the number one benefit of being a member of a carsharing service.

With car2go adding thousands of four-door Mercedes-Benz vehicles to its North American vehicle network, more people in cities across the U.S. andCanada will soon experience the ease and affordability of one-way carsharing while they build their savings. For this study, car2go surveyed 1,800 adult respondents in the following markets: Washington D.C.; Denver; Austin; New York City; Seattle; Vancouver; Calgary; Toronto; and Montreal.  Respondents were from all income brackets and did not necessarily need to be a member of a car sharing service.

With 2.7 million members and growing, car2go is the world’s largest, fastest-growing one-way carshare service. Over 800,000 of car2go’s members reside in the U.S. and Canada.
• car2go study finds “Sharing economy helps consumers bridge The ‘Attainability Gap’.”

Taxify takes on Uber in crowded London taxi-hailing market

Taxify takes on Uber in crowded London taxi-hailing market

Estonian start-up Taxify is to go head to head with Uber in London’s highly competitive taxi-hailing market, and also has Paris in its sights.

Taxify said it will launch services across London on Tuesday after signing up 3,000 private hire taxi drivers, who have been vetted to ensure they meet local licensing requirements. It marks a major move forward for Taxify after missteps by the Silicon Valley giant already allowed it to make inroads in several cities in central and eastern Europe and Africa.

In London, it enters a crowded market where the city’s famous black cab taxi drivers and private hire taxi firms such as Addison Lee compete with ride-hailing apps including Gett and Hailo, which is now part of Daimler’s MyTaxi. Uber counts 40,000 drivers and has 3 million London users, who take 1 million trips a week.

Taxify is a fraction of Uber’s size – being active in just under 25 cities compared to Uber’s presence in nearly 600 cities worldwide – but runs on a lower cost business model, allowing passengers to pay marked-down fares and letting drivers retain a bigger share of the profits.

Taxify said on Monday it would take a 15 percent commission on rides booked through its online platform, versus the 20-25 percent Uber charges in London. Taxify also said it will accept cash as well electronic payments from riders, unlike Uber. “We will always be cheaper than Uber,” company founder and Chief Executive Markus Villig said in a telephone interview with Reuters.

Continue reading:

  • A Taxify cab drives in Tallinn, Estonia, June 13, 2017.
Lyft expands ride-hailing service across all of South Carolina, including rural areas.

Lyft expands ride-hailing service across all of South Carolina, including rural areas.

The ride-hailing service Lyft is rolling into rural corners of South Carolina, marking an ambitious experiment of city-driven technology in the sparsely populated countryside. Lyft announced Thursday that users anywhere in the state can request a car through its app, expanding far beyond its base of operations in cities like Charleston, where it arrived last year.

As yet unclear is whether passengers will take up the service, and whether drivers will log on to accommodate them. With the expansion that began last week, the service now covers the entirety of 40 states, including the bulk of the Southeast.

Lyft and its larger competitor, Uber, have tussled for market share in South Carolina through much of the year, but until recently, they’ve been limited to areas like Columbia, Greenville and Myrtle Beach, where they can rely on a critical mass of passengers.

Easing the expansion is a state law, approved in 2015, that requires only one permit to cover the entirety of South Carolina.

“Our goal has always been to create better transportation, decrease the amount of cars and traffic on the road, and bring safe and affordable rides to the entire country,” Jaime Raczka, Lyft’s regional director for new markets, said in a statement. “Through this expansion, we are one step closer to delivering on that mission.”

For its part, Uber has likewise begun reaching past the state’s main metropolitan areas, saying it operates in half of South Carolina’s 46 counties, including rural areas like Marion and McCormick.

Continue reading:

  • Lyft and Uber are also going for rural markets.
Mercedes-Benz Vans invests 50 million US dollars in new joint venture with Via – starts in London.

Mercedes-Benz Vans invests 50 million US dollars in new joint venture with Via – starts in London.

Mercedes-Benz Vans is entering the ride-sharing sector. To this end, the van division of Daimler AG is setting up a joint venture with the US startup company Via. Daimler Mobility Services additionally joins in as a strategic investor in Via. Unlike other ride-hailing companies, Via has focused on developing, from the ground up, a scalable and on-demand shared ride solution. The intelligent Via algorithm supports smart public transport, enabling a dynamic mass transit system that reduces traffic volume in urban areas. The fusion of Via’s technology with the engineering of Mercedes-Benz Vans creates the perfect match for efficient, affordable and sustainable ride-sharing. As part of the cooperation, Mercedes-Benz Vans is investing 50 million US dollars in the new joint venture. For Daimler Mobility Services, Volker Mornhinweg will be joining Via’s board of directors.

Headquartered in New York, Via’s successful shared ride service in New York, Chicago, and Washington D.C. provides over 1 million rides per month, and its revolutionary technology is licensed by partners around the world. Together, Mercedes-Benz Vans and Via aim to introduce on-demand shared rides in Europe. Via’s revolutionary technology is changing the way people get around cities. With Via’s intelligent shared rides, passengers headed in the same direction are matched with a single van, increasing vehicle utilization while relieving the strain on inner-city roads. London will be the first city to launch the new joint service this year. Other European metropolises will soon follow.

“On-demand ride-sharing offers many new ways of making city traffic efficient, needs-based and sustainable – especially when it involves the use of spacious, safe and comfortable vans,” says Volker Mornhinweg, Head of Mercedes-Benz Vans. “Via is one of the most successful providers in the growing ride-sharing sector while Mercedes-Benz Vans has the perfect vehicles that are being continuously optimised for this job. By deepening our cooperation with Via, we are thus taking the next logical step in the context of our strategy for the future and are expanding our range of new mobility services.” The cooperation is another milestone of the adVANce strategy of Mercedes-Benz Vans focussing on the transformation from a vehicle manufacturer to a provider of holistic van system solutions.

The investment is part of the Daimler strategy focussing on pioneering innovations and digitization, especially in the four future fields of connectivity (Connected), autonomous driving (Autonomous), flexible use and services (Shared & Services) and electric drive systems (Electric). “With our mobility services like car2go, mytaxi and moovel we are already today reaching more than 15 million customers worldwide. As one of the leading providers of digital mobility services our investment in Via is a logical step to expand our portfolio according to our customers’ needs”, says Klaus Entenmann, Chairman of the Board of Management of Daimler Financial Services AG. “We are thus further expanding our digital mobility services. We have the financial resources that are required for this growth path.”

“We are delighted to have the Daimler Group on board as an investor and strategic partner. Combining Via’s technology with the exceptional design and engineering of Mercedes-Benz Vans is ideal for our vision of offering efficient, affordable, sustainable, and comfortable shared rides everywhere,” says Daniel Ramot, co-founder and CEO of Via. “Having completed over 20 million rides, we at Via know that having the right vehicle is crucial for providing the best customer experience. We are excited to expand our successful partnership with Daimler, which began in 2015, and collaborate on developing the optimal vehicle for the future of mobility,” says Oren Shoval, CTO and co-founder of Via.

Via is re-engineering public transit – from a regulated system of rigid routes and schedules to a fully dynamic, on-demand network that provides an innovative supplement to existing transportation networks. Passengers request rides through a mobile app, and Via’s sophisticated algorithm instantly finds a vehicle that best matches the passenger’s route, allowing for quick and efficient shared trips without detours that take riders out of their way.

New joint venture set to establish on-demand shared rides in Europe

Mercedes-Benz Vans and Via have been successfully cooperating since 2015. The joint venture between Mercedes-Benz Vans and Via will operate as a new entity with headquarters in Amsterdam. The joint goal is to bring on-demand shared rides to Europe. The joint venture will not only launch its own service in European cities, but will also license Via’s proprietary technology – the On-Demand Shuttle Operating System – to third parties, such as transport service providers and local public transit operators. By enabling vans to be dynamically routed between thousands of virtual bus stops distributed across the city, this innovative approach to public transit helps reduce traffic volume in cities without requiring the construction of costly new infrastructure.

Long term strategic partnership to further develop the mobility concept

Mercedes-Benz Vans and Via will in the future cooperate on the further development of intelligent mobility, including optimizing the design of Mercedes-Benz Vans vehicles for shared ride use. The models mainly used will be the Vito Tourer (up to nine seats) and the V-Class (up to eight seats) being continuously adapted for this intended use. Beyond developing advanced software and sensors, another focus of the long term strategic partnership lies on the use of the locally emission-free electric-drive Mercedes-Benz Vito and autonomous driving.

  • Innovative on-demand shared ride service to launch in Europe: Mercedes-Benz Vans sets up joint venture with US start-up Via.
Young Tae Kim takes office as ITF Secretary-General

Young Tae Kim takes office as ITF Secretary-General

The International Transport Forum at the OECD has a new Secretary-General. Dr. Young Tae Kim, a Korean national, has taken up his position at the organisation’s Paris headquarters on 21 August.

Kim is the first non-European to lead the world’s only all-modes transport organisation.

The ITF acts as a policy think tank for its 59 member countries and organises the annual summit of transport ministers. Created as global intergovernmental transport organisation in 2006, the ITF evolved out of the European Conference of Ministers of Transport founded in 1953.

“It is a privilege to lead an organisation that drives global dialogue for better transport”, Secretary-General Kim said upon taking office. “I thank the ministers of transport of ITF member countries for entrusting me with the leadership of ITF. I will work with all of them to consolidate what has been achieved, to make our work even more relevant for them, and to further strengthen the ITF’s global impact.”

“Transport technology and services are changing in dramatic ways that require new policy responses. I want ITF to be a global pioneer of advanced transport policies for the 21st century”, Kim added. “The ITF is the only global body with a mandate for all transport modes. We are known for our cutting-edge research and policy analysis. Our annual summit is already the world’s leading  platform for global transport policy dialogue.”

“My ambition is to develop the ITF into a truly interactive platform that will be able to develop core orientations for the future of transport in a time of change and disruption.”

“The ITF should continue to grow and become even more global. I want to reach out to further countries in emerging world regions. I will aim to strengthen links with International Organisations, Multilateral Development Banks And research institutions. And I plan to systematically engage the private sector in policy dialogue via the ITF Corporate Partnership Board.”

“As I am taking over the leadership of ITF, I also pay tribute to my predecessor, José Viegas. His achievements over the past five years provide a strong foundation to build on.”

Prior to becoming ITF Secretary-General, Kim served as a Director-General in Korea’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport. His career also included roles working for the President and the Prime Minister of Korea as well as three years at the Korean Embassy in Washington, D.C. Kim holds holds a doctorate degree from the Institute d’Etudes Politiques (Science-Po) in Paris, France.

  • Young Tae Kim takes office as ITF Secretary-General.